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Tragic child fatalities often easily preventable

Industry news
Durban - Two children have died recently in car crashes because they were not securely strapped into their car seats.

This is despite a number of warnings from child-care groups for parents to always ensure that their children were safely secured before driving off.

At the weekend, an 18-month-old toddler succumbed to injuries sustained after being pinned between the car’s windscreen and the road.

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File picture: Matthew Jordaan / Independent Media.

Paul Herbst, IPSS Medical Rescue spokesperson, said the boy was sitting on his mother’s lap when the driver lost control of the car they were in.

“The crash occurred along the N2 south, just after Tinley Manor. He was ejected from the vehicle before it came to rest upside down, pinning the toddler between the windscreen and the road. Paramedics gained access to the baby through the passenger window and by cutting through the vehicle.

“An advanced life support resuscitation was started and lasted for 45 minutes. Unfortunately, due to the baby’s critical injuries he was declared dead at the scene,” said Herbst.

This accident comes less than four weeks after a 7-month-old girl died in hospital after being ejected from a rolling car.

The accident also took place on the N2 north-bound, and according to Herbst, the baby was found a distance away from the original crash site.

“When we arrived at the scene, the baby’s mother said they had got out of the car and they could not find the baby. The mother found the child a few metres away and the baby was unresponsive.”

Herbst said the baby responded to mouth-to-mouth resuscitation with a cry and was then placed on a ventilator. However, she died in hospital.

He said parents needed to ensure that their children were safely secured into their car seats before taking off.

“Parents and relatives cannot have children seated on their laps. It is not safe. Again, we appeal to all adults to ensure that your children are restrained even when travelling down the road to the shops. Buckle them up all the time,” he pleaded.

At the third National Road Safety Summit in Durban last year, Dipuo Peters, former national Transport minister, said that in Gauteng alone, more than 555 children were killed in road crashes between 2007 and 2011.

Peters said some of the fatalities were directly linked to children not being properly restrained in car seats.

Robert McKenzie, KwaZulu-Natal EMS spokesperson, said the main reason for child car seats was the child’s safety.

“The forces involved during a crash are massive and devastating. These forces act differently on children, who have several anatomic and physiological differences, when compared with adults. It is a misconception that an adult would be able to hold on to a child in a crash, and even if they did manage to, their arms wouldn’t provide adequate protection for the child,” McKenzie explained.

He added that when compared to adults, children had larger heads and certain organs were also bigger in proportion to their body size.

“Their musculoskeletal system is still developing and their bones are softer. This allows forces from the crash to be transmitted to the body’s vital organs easier. A child’s smaller size also allows them to be thrown around inside the vehicle during a crash,” said McKenzie.

He said the car seat prevented the child from moving around.

“We often see children who have been airborne in the vehicle and they then sustained further injuries when they collided with structures inside the car, like the windscreen and dashboard. The seat also prevents the child from being ejected from the vehicle. The multipoint straps distribute the force of the crash over a greater area, and the head rest and sides of the seats also provide physical protection to the child.

“It’s vital that the correct size and type of seat is used for the child’s age, that the seat is secured with the car’s seat belt and that the straps over the child have the correct tightness,” said McKenzie.

Peggy Mars, founder of Wheel Well, an organisation that specialises in child road safety, said it was not just important that parents strapped their children into car seats - it was vital.

“There is no other option. The car is not your child’s friend and if they are strapped in, they can ride down the forces that come into play when a crash occurs,” she said.

In her many years of experience, Mars said she had come across many cases where crashes had claimed children’s lives.

“The impact is devastating on the parent. You cannot deal with it. I lost my child 23 years ago and you never get over it,” she said.

Daily News

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